What do you fellow chocolatiers think about deZaan chocolates?
DeZaan positioning seems to be high quality at competitive pricing. One rep mentioned that deZaan is just as good or better than Callebaut but at a lower cost (also comparable to Felchlin and Valrhona).
Of course, the de Zaan rep is going to position his chocolate in the most favorable way possible to their brand - "better" than Callebaut (whatever that means and there are lots of possible interpretations - I would ask them to describe what specifically they mean when they say "better" -- it will be different) at a lower cost than the premium brands.
In the end, what matters is whether you like the taste of it - we can't make that judgment for you, and whether or not you like the way it works, technically (viscosity, temper, etc). If you don't like the taste, or it doesn't work for you, then the price does not matter.
One of de Zaan's salespeople, Philippe Tytgat, is a member here on TheChocolateLife, you might ask him.
One other note is that de Zaan is a part of ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). They are one of the largest producers of chocolate and semi-finished cocoa products in the world. Definitely part of "big agriculture" -- they own ConAgra and other companies. (Take a look at the section on agricultural subsidies in the Wikepedia article.)
So - it's not surprising they can compete with Callebaut on price, the question of whether or not the quality is the same as Valrhona or Felchlin is a subject for debate.
Me, personally? I prefer working with smaller producers even though the prices are usually higher. Low(er) prices almost always indicate commodity beans which indicate that the farmers are not being paid a living wage for their crop.
Yea I plan on trying it myself but haven't had the chance. Chocolate is very subjective but I always have this feeling that their is a "best." Thanks for the referral btw.
I could give you an answer as a sales person and an answer as a chocolate expert. As a sales person, of course we want you to buy our chocolate, because we truly believe in the quality / price of the range. And we would be happy to see you agree with us.
However, the answer as a chocolate expert is much more complex than that. What Clay indicates is correct, but allow me to give you more detail to your question. deZaan Gourmet is what I call a Workhorse Chocolate. Workhorse means that it should give you a solid quality return for the price you are paying. The chocolate can be used for production and banquet purposes, it is usually very forgiving in the tempering curves, the viscocity allows you multiple applications and the price should be favorable. A workhorse chocolate must have a very favorable price versus quality. deZaan fits in that range, together with the likes of Callebaut and Cacao Barry ( with caution and to some degree, which I am explaining below ).
Felchlin and Valrhona belong in a totally other category: Artisanal Chocolates. They are usually more expensive, they have more flavor profiles, the tempering curves are much more strict and they are usually best used for smaller productions, such as plated desserts, very upscale confectionery. So comparing deZaan with Felchlin and Valrhona as a rule, is something I would not agree with, because the two chocolate-families are totally different in their application. However, if a pastry chef thinks that deZaan is better than an artisanal chocolate, I will not contradict that, because it comes back to the personal preference of that chef ( see next paragraph ).
However, this is not a solid rule. All of the above is very much dictated by your personal preference and what your customers can afford. I have seen high profile pastry chefs who will only use a workhorse chocolate, because their clientele can not afford the final product to be more than a certain price. The opposite is equally true: I have seen pastry chefs rely on artisanal chocolate, because their food budget is much bigger, because of the financial strength of their clientele.
It does not make any chocolate better over the other: it only puts you into a certain direction of choice.
Of course, one can never argue your personal preference in chocolate. That is something one has to respect nonetheless.
But I will tell you this, as a chocolate expert: deZaan can be considered as one of the best chocolates in the price versus quality spectrum. Our Milk Intense 35 and our White Obsession 30 have been revered by many pastry chefs as an extremely good chocolate and when the price is being proposed, it has raised a lot of interest. Our Cocoa Powders Velvet and Auburn are considered as one of the best, because of the deep chocolate flavor and color rendition the product offers.
Our Dark Temptation 64%, Ovation 71% have been compared favorably against our competitors, but when pricing is offered, deZaan Gourmet is again a very good chocolate.
I try not to position the chocolate towards Callebaut and Cacao Barry, as deZaan is proving its own identity as one of the better workhorse chocolates ( price versus quality ). Ultimately, it comes down if the product fits in your preference and if you see the value in the price for your customer base.
However, I would like to add what you are also getting for your product and that does not cost you anything more, is sustainable and responsible cocoa. Our chocolate is made with S.E.R.A.P. beans ( Socially and Environmentally Resposible Agricultural Practices ), which is the flatform for Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Utz. Our program does more than just grow sustainable cocoa trees, it also makes sure the farmers are being trained in business acumen, the plantations and farms are being maintained so the farmers have a better way of living, and it also invests in educating the farmers and their families on HIV prevention. The program is something we are extremely proud of and we like to share more with you.
If you allow me to send you samples, I would be happy to doing so, so you can try. But I would encourage you to try it and please let me know what you think of it. I am always open to opinions and we are always looking to improve our chocolate.